Life in Uganda

Celebrating 50 Years

Uganda gained independence from the British 50 years ago today. Folks from around the world are gathering in Kampala today for celebration. With businesses closed, Candice and I are enjoying a slow morning organizing photos, digging in the garden, and reflecting on our time in Uganda (we’ve lived here for nearly 10% of Uganda’s independence). If you’d like to read some fascinating history or tributes to key players, just do a google search.

I thought I’d do something a little different–something significantly more ethnocentric. In the many discussions with folks from outside Uganda, the conversation invariably turns to comparisons. Most of those comparisons involve the current standing of Uganda with his/her respective country on social, political, religious, and economic issues. The difficulty with many of our amateur comparisons is that our bias is heavy. The rubric for success involves categories from the foreigner’s country. My comparison below is problematic on loads of levels, but it was fun for me to reflect on it.

What if we compare the USA at 50 years of independence with Uganda at 50 years of independence?

For whatever reason, most Westerners like to talk about a lot of the negative stuff about African nations. We accentuate the deficits. So I thought I’d do the same with the US of A at 50 years of independence.

The United States was under our 6th president: John Quincy Adams, the son of our 2nd president John Adams. In the West we talk about “political families”. In Uganda we call it “nepotism” or “tribalism”.

The US was in debt: $81,000,000 (approximately $1.8 Billion in today’s currency)

Two of our Founding Fathers died: John Adams and Thomas Jefferson.

24 states: Missouri entered 5 years earlier and Arkansas wouldn’t come in for another 11 years. Below is a map of the US in 1826.

Wars! Wars! Wars! We had just finished up the War of 1812, the 2nd Barbary War, battles in the West Indies, ironically fighting slave traders in Africa (while maintaining our own slaves). We fought indigenous tribes like the 1st Seminole War and the Arikara War – a pogrom, of sorts; the Russian Empire in this case was US government and Jews were Native Americans.

We were continuing to develop all things inherited by the British, as they had built roads, established markets, created postal services, installed a military, etc.

The Comparison

So where’s the Uganda side of things? I decided to leave it out of this post. The US was in a fairly tenuous state in 1826; burgeoning industry and western expansion gave us something to look forward to, but we had not yet “arrived”.  We still had more wars to fight, epidemics to contain, debt to incur, and states to unite. Uganda in many ways is in a similar boat. I’m looking forward to witnessing Uganda’s further development over the next few decade–although, I am hoping for fewer wars.


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